Writer/director Lauren Miller Rogen crafts stories about women who have everything, or think they do, just so she can take it all away from them in the first ten minutes of the movie and see what happens.
Rogen co-wrote “For a Good Time Call…,” in which she also starred as a determined, organized, young woman who thinks she has everything figured out until she gets dumped by her fiancé. “Like Father” has a similar premise, only more publicly humiliating, with Rachel (Kristen Bell) getting dumped in the middle of the wedding ceremony and then ending up taking her estranged father (Kelsey Grammar) on her honeymoon cruise.
In an interview, Rogen talked about the challenges of filming on a real cruise ship and the pleasures of directing her husband, Seth Rogen, who plays a fellow passenger.
I understand that you did not have quite as smooth sailing as the characters in the movie.
No we did not have smooth sailing. When we were shooting the movie we ran up against Hurricane Irma and had to change some of our plans. We had intended on shooting on the ship for a full two weeks. We were supposed to go on a Saturday and Irma hit on Sunday so the ship couldn’t come back into the port. So we ended up at a hotel at Disney World for six nights and then eventually we got on the ship and things went better from there.
Once you did get on, what was it like to film on a cruise ship with all the crew and passengers?
Making a movie is a challenge no matter where you are, whether you’re on a cruise ship or on a soundstage, but we had our own set of things we needed to overcome. Yes, it was a working cruise ship, so there were five thousand people taking a vacation all around us. That was both great for the atmosphere of the film but also sometimes people are like, “You’re ruining my trip.” It was nice that people wanted to be extras and they thought it was cool and they wanted to watch.
Royal Caribbean were incredible partners to us. They did not pay us; it’s not a commercial for Royal Caribbean, we paid them. And because of Hurricane Irma, we actually didn’t have any days off on the cruise ship, so we worked the whole time which was crazy. You’re in the middle of the ocean so you can’t run off to the store if you don’t have something. We were shooting the scene that takes place at night on the deck and there was so much wind we couldn’t shoot and thank God Captain Johnny, who is so amazing, stopped the ship for us for two hours so we could shoot our scene.
There were those adventures but at the same time in the middle of the ocean it was beautiful. Some of those shots we had with the sunshine were amazing and it is such a special crazy thing to be able to be in the actual setting of where your story takes place and not on a soundstage. That’s a real cabin, people were in the hallway, we were on the ocean; what a cool thing to be able to be so authentic.
From the perspective of first of your characters and then of the crew, what are the advantages are of isolating you from everything else in the world?
That was in the setup as the story was originally pitched to me by Anders Bard, who was one of the producers on the movie and also is just an amazing human being. If they had just gone to an all-inclusive resort they could just leave, so they had to be trapped somewhere in order to face the depth of their issues and then make the decision to stay. Being trapped in the middle of the ocean they can’t go anywhere. They have to face each other.
And honestly any movie is like summer camp because your crew is all together for twelve to thirteen hours per day. You are tired, you’re happy, you’re angry, you’re sad, you’re hungry, you are smelly. And it is an adventure you share in a very intense way. We shot in New York for two weeks, then we came down to Florida and we were stuck in Orlando together for six days, almost quarantined in Orlando and then on a cruise ship for twelve days, and then we moved to Jamaica together, so it was really quite an adventure. We bonded so much. We did a sort of cast and crew screening last week just to see everyone and watch the movie in a theater and it was so nice. There were many relationships that bloomed; I think three relationships came from the movie which is amazing. Three relationships! It’s funny, our wedding caused three breakups and my movie caused three relationships.
This was one of the most appealing, low-key roles Seth Rogen has had. What was it like directing your husband, who is himself a writer and director as well as an actor?
I did not actually write the role for him. He wasn’t ever going to be in the movie. And then somewhere along the way we thought about him playing Owen because we liked the idea of putting someone recognizable in that role so it would sort of be a misdirect, like you would think he would come back or she would cave and go back to him. Then around maybe two months or so before shooting, I was in Canada with Seth in Vancouver and like any loving American wife would do towards her Canadian husband, I was making funny Canadian jokes, and said I might make the character Canadian instead of from the Midwest as I had originally planned. And he said, “I am not going on that cruise ship.”
Then I talked to him about it as we do when we are writing anything and came up with just so many funny jokes. He had never played a Canadian who likes to make jokes about that and he was like, “Oh man, that would be so funny,” and it just got to a point where he was like, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
What’s great about it is that to me he’s not that much of a square and Jeff is a real square, an adorable square, but it’s much closer to who Seth is in real life. He is sweet and quiet and he’s not his character from “Knocked Up” or “Pineapple Express.” I have friends who say, “Oh, Seth is so much quieter than I thought he would be.” And so I love seeing him in roles where his much sweeter side comes out because to me that’s who he is in real life and it was nice to see him that way.
Parts of the movie hark back to the kind of classic black and white movies you see on TCM. Are you a fan of old movies?
Yes, of course. My dad was a big, big movie fan. We had a closet with 500 plus VHS tapes that he had made illegally by copying rental videos to actual VHS tapes. So I watched movies from when I was very young. My favorite movie to this day starting from when I was three years old is “Funny Girl.” Honestly, I walked down the aisle to “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” It’s a theme for my life because I’ve always been that sort of funny girl who wanted to be serious. I was extremely influenced by Nora Ephron, Penny Marshall, of course Barbra Streisand and Garry Marshall; all those movies that are sort of funny but emotional and make you feel things and make your heart just want to connect and feel a human emotion. I was definitely a student of those movies growing up and want to tell those stories as my career goes on.
What’s the best advice you ever got about directing?
The best advice I ever got was from my husband and it’s just not about directing. He gave it to me the night before we started shooting For a Good Time Call which was that as the first person on the call sheet — same if you are the director — my first job above all was to be in a good mood. If I didn’t want to be there no one else was going to want to be there. I needed to know what I was doing and be happy about it. I think of that every day before I start something, even when I’ve been a guest star on a TV show. The truth is, we work in an industry where if we are working on a set, we worked really hard to get there and I think that sometimes the hours and the circumstances can be exhausting. But the truth is it’s important to remember to be grateful. I worked really hard to get to direct my first movie and if I’m not acting like I’m appreciative of that, what a jerk I am. So that’s the best advice.